The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is for those people whose roots are in India, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh told India Today TV in an exclusive interview.
Campaigning in Jharkhand, which is witnessing a five-phase election, Rajnath Singh spoke about the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill and the Bharatiya Janata Party’s efforts to form the government in Maharashtra, among other issues.
On allegations that CAB is exclusionary to Muslims, Rajnath Singh said, “The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is being brought for those people whose roots are in India but stay or stayed on in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. And if they are being persecuted for religious reasons, we are providing them citizenship.”
“Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh are Islamic states. Those who believe in Islam cannot face persecution there for religious identity. CAB is also for Christians who are of Indian origin,” the defence minister added.
Rajnath Singh asserted that the Centre does not look at perspectives from the religious angle. “But in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, the state religion is Islam. People of other communities, who are of Indian origin and being persecuted, have no place to go. We will give them refuge in India,” he said.
“Muslims in these three countries may face other kinds of persecution but not religious. CAB is only for those who face religious persecution. While giving citizenship, everyone will be asked why they came here,” he iterated.
On why Tamils in Sri Lanka are not covered under CAB, Rajnath Singh said, “Tamils were not persecuted only for their religion in Sri Lanka. The Tamil issue was solved after a few years. There is a difference between confrontation and persecution.”
Rajnath Singh also refused to link CAB with the National Register of Citizens (NRC). While Home Minister Amit Shah had said NRC will be implemented across the nation, some local BJP leaders in Assam said CAB and NRC will benefit them in elections.
“Every decision should not be linked to elections. In fact, NRC should not be linked to CAB. Through NRC, we want to know how many foreigners reside in India,” Rajnath Singh said.
Many leaders such as West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her Chhattisgarh counterpart Bhupesh Baghel, however, have refused to allow NRC in their states.
“We will appeal to them and hope they implement them. We never did politics of polarisation, other parties do it,” the defence minister responded when asked about the fate of NRC and CAB in states where BJP is not in government.
Speaking about the BJP’s failed attempt to form the government in Maharashtra, Rajnath Singh said, “It depends on the Governor who he wants to invite to form the government. Only he can answer the concerns.”
He, however, clarified that the BJP did not try to grab power. “If a leader from another party approaches us and says their full party will stand with us, maybe the Governor was convinced with that and took a decision based on that. BJP never practices immoral methods,” the BJP stalwart said.
Speaking about the BJP’s shrinking footprints when it comes to the states it controls now compared to two years back, Rajnath Singh said, “It depends a lot on the state government’s performance and how connected state leaders are with the masses.”
“It can’t be said about any political party that if it has the government at the Centre, it should also have governments in states. There comes a phase for every political party,” the Lucknow MP added.
On the BJP losing long-term allies — Shiv Sena and All Jharkhand Students’ Union — in quick succession, Rajnath Singh said, “There are various factors that determine whether allies should stay with key parties or not. No political party can say that allies will stay with them forever. There are various political reasons for which allies walk out; they return too. But our allies have grown over the years.”
“Even after a clear majority in 2014, we kept our allies with us and made them part of governments. We did the same in 2019. BJP did not break ties with Shiv Sena, it was the other way round,” he said.
“In Jharkhand, BJP will form the government with clear majority despite the opposition coming together. Even during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, many people assessed that BJP would not get a majority,” Rajnath Singh said.
Questioned about tribal dissent due to proposed amendments to the Chhotanagpur Tenancy Act and Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act, Rajnath Singh said tribals are with BJP. “There has been discrimination against tribals and we will never do something that hurts them. Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee even constituted a separate ministry for tribal development and this reflects our commitment to their uplift,” he said.
Rajnath Singh also defended his party on the choice of chief ministers when asked about the BJP’s decision to appoint heads of state not from the dominant caste.
“We do not decide on chief ministers based on caste, creed or religion. We look for someone who can provide leadership with honesty, someone on whom there can be no corruption charges. We want to provide clean governance,” the defence minister said and added that the BJP does not encourage people convicted in corruption cases.
The defence minister refused to comment on the Hyderabad encounter saying he won’t speak on it till he has complete information. “But we and the people of this country want the strictest punishment for such crime,” he said.